Are you wondering, “Can I be a manager if I have social anxiety?” Successful people are often thought of as extroverts. People who like to be the center of attention and make friends easily. But this is not always true! Social anxiety can sometimes be crippling, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful career in management.
In general, it’s possible to be a manager with social anxiety. In fact, some research suggests that socially anxious people may make better leaders than their counterparts who are more confident.
If you are wondering whether or not you can be a successful manager with social anxiety, there are a number of things you should be aware of. Keep reading to understand more.
Can I Be a Manager If I Have Social Anxiety?
I conducted a survey of the Living Fully with Social Anxiety Facebook group to determine how many people were managers. Out of a group of 500+ people, there were 70 respondents to my poll.
Below is the breakdown of their employment status. As you can see, over 10% of respondents were managers, indicating that it’s not common but entirely possible to be a manager with social anxiety.
|Employment Status||Number of People (%)|
|Self-Employed/Business Owner||6 (8.6%)|
|Not Employed||6 (8.6%)|
Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.
People with social anxiety can be perfectionists, which may also make them more conscientious managers.
They’re less likely to jump into projects without thinking them through first.
They always want to do their best work, so they take the time to plan out every step of a project before moving forward with it.
Socially anxious leaders also pay attention to the needs of their employees and know how best to manage them because they understand where their fears come from.
However, if your social anxiety is severe or debilitating, being a manager may not be the right fit for you.
For some, it may be possible to manage with occasional bouts of social anxiety.
But for others, a leadership role can exacerbate their insecurities and make things even more difficult than they already are.
If you want to go into management but feel that managing your own team will trigger your social anxiety too much, consider switching paths.
How Can I Be a Good Manager If I Have Social Anxiety?
I scoured forum posts on Reddit and Quora by people who were managers with social anxiety to get an idea of the pros and cons. Below is a summary of what I found.
|Better able to maintain distance rather than being everyone’s “friend”||Tendency to worry could keep you up at night thinking about work|
|Chance to challenge your social anxiety and grow as a person||Lack of assertiveness could make it hard to give feedback/discipline|
|Chance to build communication skills||Tendency to avoid social interaction could make employees feel alienated|
|Higher empathy allows you to take the perspective of your employees||Networking obligations may make social anxiety worse|
|Being a good listener allows you to be a better leader||Daily small talk required of a manager could be exhausting if you are also an introvert|
These same managers had some suggestions on how to be a better manager if you have social anxiety. Below is what they suggested:
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- How to use "Conversational Threading" to avoid awkward silence
- The proven way to get past boring small talk
- Instantly beat self-consciousness with the "OFC-method"
- Busting the myth that you have to get a "more interesting life" to be more interesting"
- Lead by loyalty rather than fear (inspire your employees to be loyal)
- Practice being assertive rather than aggressive (calmly state problems that need solving)
- Track employee performance with data and charts that can be used during performance reviews
- Be organized and have a plan so your team feels supported and safe
- Give your team ownership so that they feel connected to your goals
- Listen carefully and maintain eye contact during conversations
- Assign people to tasks that make use of their strengths. Have a social employee act as your assistant to handle some social obligations.
How to Manage Social Anxiety While Being a Manager
First, make sure you are seeking out professional help. A therapist can provide the support and guidance necessary to manage your anxiety in a workplace environment.
Second, be aware of how much time you need for personal space/time at work. While it is important that managers have strong social skills, there should also be room for privacy when needed.
If you need to disappear for a few minutes every day, make sure your employees know that you are okay and they should not take it personally.
Third, don’t take failure too hard or give up easily if things go wrong in the workplace. When you’re anxious about something, you tend to assume the worst will happen and make a plan for what to do when it does.
But anxiety can make you overestimate the likelihood of something going wrong and assume you have no options in place if it does happen.
Try not to take failure too hard, but also don’t give up easily either—no one is perfect!
Fourth, try building your own support system. This could be as simple as having a friend you can meet up with for coffee or tea to clear your head and relax after work, or joining an online support group where you can anonymously discuss how you feel and get feedback from others who understand what it’s like.
How to Tell Your Boss You Have Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can put you at a disadvantage in the workplace if it is not managed properly, but that doesn’t mean being open about your social anxiety should be avoided. In fact, talking to your boss may actually help them understand how they can best support you as their employee and manager!
Before speaking with your boss, think through what exactly it is you want to communicate.
For example, do you just need a little privacy every now and then? Are there certain times where it is better not to have any meetings or discussions in person? Or are there things your boss can say that will make social interactions with them less difficult for you?
Once you know what exactly it is that you need from your boss, try to come up with a few different ways of explaining it.
For example, if you struggle more in person than over email or instant messaging, consider having two different conversations—one where you express how much easier it is for the both of you when there are some interactions that can be done electronically and another where you ask for space when necessary.
Trying to explain social anxiety can be difficult, but this doesn’t mean it’s impossible or shouldn’t be done at all!
If you are struggling with telling your boss about your social anxiety, consider communicating that you have some things on your mind and would like to talk through them together before moving forward.
On the other hand, if your boss is pushing you to participate in something that will trigger your anxiety too much, it may be time to have a different conversation.
For example, try saying “I’m sorry but I cannot do X right now because Y happens when I do.” You don’t need to give any more information than what is requested.
Lastly, don’t lose hope! There are a lot of resources available to you that can help make your life as a manager with social anxiety easier and more manageable!
What Kind of Job Should I Get If I Have Social Anxiety?
The type of job that you choose should not be dictated by your social anxiety. But keep in mind that certain fields may be better suited for managing anxiety than others.
If you want to find a job where you can challenge your social anxiety, consider these options:
- administrative roles (e.g., receptionist)
- service industry jobs (e.g., bartender, flight attendant)
- artistic roles (e.g., actor, dancer)
However, if you find that your anxiety limits what kinds of jobs are available to you or makes it difficult for you to manage in a standard work environment, consider these options:
- working from home in an online capacity (e.g., as a writer/blogger/YouTuber)
- freelance/independent contractor jobs where you can work on your own schedule and from the comfort of your home (e.g., graphic design, writing)
In addition to choosing a job that is more flexible, try seeking out one in which there are fewer social expectations or demands placed upon you.
For example, rather than taking a sales job where you must work under pressure, consider an engineering role where you can work in relative solitude.
Finally, try to avoid working alone all the time if possible! Find a job that offers some degree of interaction with co-workers or colleagues so that your social anxiety is not made worse through avoidance.
Being a manager is challenging no matter who you are, but if you’re willing to put in the work and overcome your social anxiety, it can be an incredibly rewarding career choice.
Related Posts about Work and Social Anxiety
- Can You Be Fired for Social Anxiety?
- Best Jobs for People with Social Anxiety
- How to Ace a Job Interview
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Can I Be a Manager If I Have Social Anxiety?
Here are some of my favorite social anxiety tools
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